Iraq: Corruption Eats Into Food Rations by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail
Global Research, May 4, 2008
Inter Press Service – 2008-05-02

FALLUJAH, May 2 (IPS) – Amidst unemployment and impoverishment, Iraqis now face a cutting down of their monthly food ration – much of it already eaten away by official corruption.

Iraqis survived the sanctions after the first Gulf War (1990) with the support of rations through the Public Distribution System (PDS). The aid was set up in 1995 as part of the UN’s Oil-for-Food programme.

The sanctions were devastating nevertheless. Former UN programme head Hans von Sponeck said in 2001 that the sanctions amounted to “a tightening of the rope around the neck of the average Iraqi citizen.” Von Sponeck said the sanctions were causing the death of 150 Iraqi children a day.

Denis Halliday, former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq who quit his post in protest against the sanctions, told IPS they had proved “genocidal” for Iraqis.

During more than five years of U.S.-occupation, the situation has become even worse. The rationing system has been crumbling under poor management and corruption.

From the beginning of this year, the rations delivered were reduced from 10 items to five.

“We used the PDS as counter-propaganda against Saddam Hussein’s regime before the U.S. occupation of Iraq began in 2003,” Fadhil Jawad of the Dawa Party led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told IPS in Baghdad. “But then we found it necessary to maintain basic support for Iraqi people under occupation. We blamed Saddam for feeding Iraqis like animals with simple rations of food — that we fail to provide now.”

“When the Americans came to occupy Iraq, they promised us a better life,” Ina’m Majeed, a teacher at a girls school told IPS in Fallujah. “After killing our sons and husbands, they are killing us by hunger now. The food ration that was once enough for our survival is now close to nothing, and the market prices are incredibly high. It is impossible for 80 percent of Iraqis now to buy the same items they used to get from the previous regime’s food rations.”

Ina’m’s husband was killed in a U.S. air strike during the April 2004 siege of her city, leaving her with four children to bring up.

A World Food Programme (WFP) report in May 2006 found that just over four million people in Iraq were “food-insecure and in dire need of different kinds of humanitarian assistance.”

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in April 2007, of the four million Iraqis who cannot regularly buy enough to eat, only 60 percent had access to PDS rations. The situation is worse today.

The former Iraqi ministry of trade used to distribute fair quantities of food in the PDS, then low quality food at the beginning of the UN sanctions. The quantities were reduced after the sanctions lasted longer than the former government expected. After Iraq signed the memo of understanding in 1996 with the UN, the quality and quantity of food notably improved.

“Do not blame Iraqis for calling the sanctions days ‘the good old days’ because they were definitely good compared to the dark days we are living under U.S. occupation,” Abu Aymen, a 45-year-old lawyer with eight children told IPS in Fallujah. “All Iraqis complained about life under Saddam’s regime because it was bad, but it seems that all the good things, little as they were, have been taken away along with his statues.”

Aymen added, “We used to get cheese, powdered milk for us and our children, shaving paste and blades, tomato paste, special food for children, beans, soap and cleaning detergents, and even chicken, as well as basic foods like flour, rice, cooking oil, tea and sugar. Now we get bullets and missiles and polluted food and medicines.”

Haj Chiad, a PDS distribution agent in Fallujah, told IPS that he now also distributes illness.

“I used to deliver food, but now I distribute poison with it,” he said. “It has happened many times during the past four years that the food given to us by the ministry of trade was either rotten or actually poisoned. We distributed rice and sugar from sacks that had been stored a long time in damp places, and tomato paste that was long past its expiry date before we received it.”

The Iraqi parliament’s Committee for Integrity has demanded comprehensive interrogation of minister for trade Abdul Falah al-Sudany for the “vast corruption in his ministry.” But as with other complaints of corruption, Maliki has taken no action.

Ali al Fadhily, IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8892

Green Zone Defeat? ‘Handed Over’ to a Government Called Sadr by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
Global Research, April 2, 2008
Inter Press Service

Occupation forces no longer control the Green Zone

BAGHDAD, Apr 2 (IPS) – Despite the huge media campaign led by U.S. officials and a complicit corporate-controlled media to convince the world of U.S. success in Iraq, emerging facts on the ground show massive failure.

The date March 25 of this year will be remembered as the day of truth through five years of occupation.

“Mehdi army militias controlled all Shia and mixed parts of Baghdad in no time,” a Baghdad police colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “Iraqi army and police forces as well as Badr and Dawa militias suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving their armoured vehicles for Mehdi militiamen to drive around in joyful convoys that toured many parts of Baghdad before taking them to their stronghold of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad.”

The police colonel was speaking of the recent clashes between members of the Shia Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army, the largest militia in the country, and members of the Iraqi government forces, that are widely known to comprise members of a rival Shia militia, the Badr Organisation.

Dozens of militiamen from both sides were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad, Basra, Kut, Samawa, Hilla and most of the Iraqi Shia southern provinces between the Mehdi Army and other militias supported by the U.S., Iran and the Iraqi government.

The Badr Organisation militia is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is also head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) that dominates the government. The Dawa Party is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The number of civilians killed and injured in the clashes is still unknown. Iraqi government offices continue to keep largely silent about the events.

“Every resident of Basra knew the situation would explode any minute between these oil thieves, and that Basra would suffer another wave of militia war,” Salman Kathum, a doctor and former resident of Basra who fled for Baghdad last month told IPS.

For months now there has been a struggle between the Sadr Movement, the SIIC, and the al-Fadhila Party for control of the south, and particularly Basra.

Falah Shenshal, an MP allied to al-Sadr, told al-Jazeera Mar. 26 that al-Maliki was targeting political opponents. “They say they target outlaw gangs, but why do they start with the areas where the sons of the Sadr movement are located? This is a political battle…for the political interests of one party (al-Maliki’s Dawa party) because the local elections are coming soon (due later this year).”

The fighting came just as the U.S. military announced the death of their 4,000th soldier in Iraq, and on the heels of a carefully crafted PR campaign designed to show that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq has successfully improved the situation on the ground.

“I wonder what lies General David Petraeus (the U.S. forces commander in Iraq) will fabricate this time,” Malek Shakir, a journalist in Baghdad told IPS. “The 25th March events revealed the true failure of the U.S. occupation project in Iraq. More complications are expected in the coming days.”

Maliki has himself been in Basra to lead a surge against Mehdi Army militias while the U.S. sent forces to surround Sadr City in an attempt to support their Badr and Dawa allies.

News of limited clashes and air strikes have come from Sadr City, with unofficial reports of many casualties amongst civilians. Curfew in many parts of Baghdad and in four southern provinces had made life difficult already.

“This failure takes Iraq to point zero and even worse,” Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad. “We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias.”

Alwan added, “Not a single unit of our army and police stood for their duty in Baghdad, leaving us wondering what to do. Most of the officers who left their posts were members of Badr brigades and the Dawa Party, who should have been most faithful to Maliki’s government.”

The Green Zone of Baghdad where the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government and parliament buildings are located, was hit by missiles. General Petraeus appeared at a press conference to accuse Iran of being behind the shelling of the zone that is supposed to be the safest area in Iraq. At least one U.S. citizen was killed in the attacks, and two others were injured.

“The Green Zone looked deserted as most U.S. and Iraqi personnel were ordered to take shelter deep underground,” an engineer who works for a foreign company in the zone told IPS. “It seemed that this area too was under curfew. No place in Iraq is safe any more.”

Further complicating matters for the occupiers of Iraq, the U.S.-backed Awakening groups, largely comprised of former resistance fighters, are now going on strike to demand overdue payment from the U.S. military.

Ali, IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East

© Copyright Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8535

Fever Named After Blackwater by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
Global Research, March 26, 2008
Inter Press Service
Hard News

FALLUJAH, Mar 26 (IPS) – Iraqi doctors in al-Anbar province warn of a new disease they call “Blackwater” that threatens the lives of thousands. The disease is named after Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. mercenary company operating in Iraq.

“This disease is a severe form of malarial infection caused by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which is considered the worst type of malarial infection,” Dr. Ali Hakki from Fallujah told IPS. “It is one of the complications of that infection, and not the ordinary picture of the disease. Because of its frequent and severe complications, such as Blackwater fever, and its resistance to treatment, P. falciparum can cause death within 24 hours.”

What Iraqis now call Blackwater fever is really a well-known medical condition, and while it has nothing to do with Blackwater Worldwide, Iraqis in al-Anbar province have decided to make the connection between the disease and the lethal U.S.-based company which has been responsible for the death of countless Iraqis.

The disease is most prevalent in Africa and Asia. The patient suffers severe intravascular haemolysis — the destruction of red blood cells leading to kidney and liver failure. It also leads to black or red urination, and hence perhaps the new name ‘Blackwater’.

The deadly disease, never before seen in Iraq on at least this scale, seems to be spreading across the country. And Iraq lacks medicines, hospitals, and doctors to lead a campaign to fight the disease.

“We informed the ministry of the disease, but it seems that they are not in a mood to listen,” a doctor from the al-Anbar Health Office in Ramadi told IPS, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are making personal contacts with NGOs in an attempt to get the necessary medicines.”

The three doctors who spoke to IPS in Fallujah and in Ramadi in al-Anbar province that lies west of Baghdad, seemed sure that the Iraqi government would do little to face the plague.

“They have not even made any announcement so that people can take precautions,” one of the doctors from Fallujah told IPS.

The doctor said a patient usually suffers three stages of malarial infection. “First is the cold stage where the patient will have chills and shaking, the second is the hot stage when fever takes over, and the third is the sweating stage.”

Doctors in Fallujah say the new complication of the disease that may develop from malarial infection can be treated in its early stages, but is difficult to control when complications develop. Drugs currently being used to treat the disease include Chloroquin, Mefloquin, Pyrimethamine, Suladox, Halfotrin and Primaquine.

Patients seem unaware of the seriousness of the disease, though doctors tell them it is essential to buy medicines from private pharmacies because they are not available at general hospitals.

“Many have died within the past two weeks in my town,” Mahmood Nassir, a schoolteacher from Saqlawiya, north of Fallujah, told IPS. “We know it is a deadly disease, but what can we do about it? We have no government to refer to, and everyone in the Green Zone (the government district of Baghdad) is too busy preparing to escape with their share of the money they stole from us.”

Talat al-Mukhtar is an Iraqi doctor now studying abroad. IPS asked him to comment on the Blackwater fever outbreak in Iraq.

“Malaria is endemic in Iraq, mainly in the northern part. However, it is prevalent in the milder forms; the severe form had been reported but not at an epidemic level.”

Dr. Mukhtar said this form of malaria requires a “triple-drug treatment programme because it is an aggressive infection.” He said the patient “requires meticulous medical and nursing care, and might even need time in an intensive care unit, as it can easily lead to kidney and liver failure.”

Like the other doctors IPS spoke with, Dr. Mukhtar was clear that the Iraqi ministry of health needs to take a proactive role before the disease spreads further. “These cases of severe fever that follow haemolysis should warrant immediate action from the ministry of health to investigate thoroughly these cases and assess whether they are malaria or other conditions.”

Dr. Mukhtar added, “Considering the poor health situation and poor resources in Anbar province, even though clinical judgment is important, laboratory tests are not easily verified, and many other diseases can give the same clinical picture. That is why standard lab investigation is needed, may be with the help of WHO (World Health Organisation).”

The disease seems too sensitive for journalists to talk about.

“There was a great deal of anger when we wrote about cholera in Iraq last summer,” a journalist in Fallujah told IPS. “Neither the government nor the occupation forces would accept our covering such a story.”

IPS was not allowed to take pictures at the Fallujah General Hospital. A doctor refused to disclose how many may have been infected or how many may have died.

The spread of this condition follows the outbreak of other diseases. According to the WHO, as of Oct. 3, 2007 cholera outbreaks in Iraq had spread to nine of 18 provinces, and roughly 30,000 people had fallen ill with acute diarrhoea, with 14 deaths.

An Oxfam International report released last July showed that the humanitarian disaster in Iraq is compounded by a mass exodus of medical staff fleeing chronic violence and lawlessness. The report said the lack of doctors and nurses is breaking down a health system now on the brink of collapse.

The report said many hospitals had lost up to 80 percent of their teaching staff.

Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8446

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It’s March 19 and Blogswarm Day! Posts on Iraq War by Lo

In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
ICH
02/23/08
BAGHDAD, Feb 22 (IPS)

What the U.S. has been calling the success of a “surge”, many Iraqis see as evidence of catastrophe. Where U.S. forces point to peace and calm, local Iraqis find an eerie silence.

And when U.S. forces speak of a reduction in violence, many Iraqis simply do not know what they are talking about.

Hundreds died in a series of explosions in Baghdad last month. This was despite the strongest ever security measures taken by the U.S. military, riding the “surge” in security forces and their activities.

The death toll is high, according to the website icasualties.org, which provides reliable numbers of Iraqi civilian and security deaths.

In January this year 485 civilians were killed, according to the website. It says the number is based on news reports, and that “actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site.”

The average month in 2005, before the “surge” was launched, saw 568 civilian deaths. In January 2006, the month before the “surge” began, 590 civilians died.

Many of the killings have taken place in the most well guarded areas of Baghdad. And they have continued this month.

“Two car bombs exploded in Jadriya, killing so many people, the day the American Secretary of Defence (Robert Gates) was visiting Baghdad last week,” a captain from the Karrada district police in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS.

“Another car bomb killed eight people and injured 20 Thursday (last week) in the Muraidy market of Sadr City, east of Baghdad, although the Mehdi army (the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr) provides strict protection to the city,” the officer said. “There is no security in this country any more.”

Unidentified bodies of Iraqis killed by militias continue to appear in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. The Iraqi government has issued instructions to all security and health offices not to give out the body count to the media. Dozens of bodies are found every day across Baghdad, residents say. Morgue officials confirm this.

“We are not authorised to issue any numbers, but I can tell you that we are still receiving human bodies every day; the men have no identity on them,” a doctor at the Baghdad morgue told IPS. “The bodies that have signs of torture are the Sunnis killed by Shia militias; those with a bullet in the head are usually policemen, translators or contractors who worked for the Americans.”

The “surge” of 30,000 additional troops came to Iraq, mostly Baghdad, in February of last year. The total current number of U.S. troops in Iraq is approximately 157,000. They were sent to end violence, and with a declared aim of helping political reconciliation.

But where peace of sorts has descended in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city of six million (in a population of 25 million), it comes from a partitioning of people along sectarian lines. The Iraqi Red Crescent reports that one in four residents has been driven out of their homes by death squads, or by the “surge”.

According to an Iraqi Red Crescent report titled ‘The Internally Displaced People in Iraq’ released Jan. 27, 1,364,978 residents of Baghdad have been displaced.

The Environment News Service reported Jan. 7 that “many of the capital’s once mixed areas have become either purely Sunni or Shia after militias forced families out for belonging to the other religious branch of Islam.”

Some of the eerie calm in areas of Baghdad comes because togetherness has ended. Sunnis and Shias who lived together for generations are now partitioned. This is not the peace many Iraqis were looking for, surge or no surge.

On Jan. 8, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond announced that there were at least 2.2 million Iraqis internally displaced within the country, and that at least another two million had fled the country altogether. This, no doubt, would make many areas quieter.

The U.S. military has erected three to four metre high concrete walls around several neighbourhoods, forcing residents to choose either Sunni or Shia areas in which to live. Such separation has brought large-scale displacement, and protests.

Sunni Muslims seem to have the worst of it. Many Iraqis are outraged by the number of Sunni detainees the “surge” has taken.

Residents of Amiriya district of western Baghdad demonstrated Feb. 11 against mistreatment by U.S. and Iraqi forces involved in the “surge”. The “surge” aims to eradicate al-Qaeda from Iraq, but this has meant that most military operations have been carried out in Sunni areas like Amiriya.

“We are here to protest against the unfair arrests and raids conducted against the innocent people of Amiriya,” Salih al-Mutlag, chief of the Arab Dialogue Council in the Iraqi government told IPS at the demonstration. “This has gone too far under the flag of fighting terror.”

Al-Mutlag said they were also demonstrating against arrests in the western parts of Baghdad, despite an apparently peaceful situation there as a result of residents’ cooperation with Iraqi army units. Large numbers of residents came out in the Dora region of southwest Baghdad to protest against the U.S. military for arresting 18 people, including an 80-year-old man.

“We are the ones who improved the situation in western parts of Baghdad without any interference from the Americans and their puppet Iraqi government,” former Iraqi Army Major Abu Wussam told IPS in Amiriya. “We negotiated with our brothers in the Iraqi national resistance who agreed to conduct their activities in a different way from the traditional way they used to work.

“It seems Americans did not like it, and so they are punishing us for it, instead of releasing our detainees as they promised.”

Some of the apparent peace on the street is a consequence of rising detentions. In November last year Karl Matley, head of the Iraqi branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross, declared that more than 60,000 prisoners and detainees are held in prisons and other detention centres. A large number of these were taken during the “surge”.

By August 2007, half a year into the “surge”, the number of detainees held by the U.S.-led military forces in Iraq had swelled by 50 percent, with the inmate population growing to 24,500, from 16,000 in February, according to U.S. military officers in Iraq.

The officers reported that nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody were Sunni Arabs.

Given that the majority of the detained are Sunnis, the “surge”, rather than bridging political differences and aiding reconciliation between Sunni and Shia groups, appears to have had the opposite effect.

And yet, there could be more dangerous reasons to doubt such success of the “surge” that is claimed.

Among the recent arrests in Baghdad, the U.S. military counted six members of the Sahwa (Awakening) forces. This is a force of resistance fighters now ostensibly working with the U.S. military. The U.S. pays each member 300 dollars monthly. More than 80 percent of about 70,000 Sahwa members are Sunni.

The arrest of some Sahwa members is indication of U.S. military doubts about the loyalties of some of these Sahwa fighters. Shia political parties and militias already accuse them of being resistance fighters in disguise. Many believe that large numbers of Sahwa forces are resistance fighters simply riding the “surge”.

“How come Sunni parts of Baghdad became so quiet all of a sudden,” says Jawad Salman, a former resident of Amiriya who fled his house in 2006 after Iraqi resistance members accused him of being a government spy. “It is a game well played by terrorists to divert the fight against Shia groups. I lived there and I know that all residents fully support what the U.S. calls the terrorists.”

The Sahwa strategy has brought down the number of U.S. casualties – for now. But the U.S. strategy seems to have done less for Iraq than for its own forces.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East) (FIN/2008)

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Dahr Jamail: Beyond the Green Zone (video; 07)

Where’s The Iraqi Voice? By Noam Chomsky

Fort Hood soliders breaking the silence in war in Iraq (video link)

Bush’s Dirty Secret: Bribing Iraq Insurgents Not to Fight By Paul Craig Roberts

A Tale of One City, Now Two By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

By Ali al-Fadhily*
IPS

BAGHDAD, Nov 12 (IPS) – The separation of religious groups in the face of sectarian violence has brought some semblance of relative calm to Baghdad. But many Iraqis see this as the uncertain consequence of a divide and rule policy.

Claims are going the rounds that sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen, and that the U.S. military “surge” has succeeded in reducing attacks against civilians. Baghdad residents speak of the other side of the coin – that they live now in a largely divided city that has brought this uneasy calm.

Continue reading

Iraq: Fewer Deaths Bring No Reassurance by Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily

Global Research, November 9, 2007

Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD, Nov 9 (IPS) – Despite claims by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Bush administration officials that violence in Iraq is decreasing, residents in the capital tell a different story.

Attacks by Iraqi resistance groups against the U.S. military continue in Baghdad and Iraq’s al-Anbar province, despite U.S. military support for certain Sunni militias in the areas.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad and al-Anbar in October. In all 39 U.S. soldiers were reported killed in Iraq for the month, making it the lowest monthly total since March 2006.

Despite the relatively low October numbers, 2007 is on pace to be the deadliest year on record for U.S. troops since the invasion of March 2003. At least 847 U.S. military personnel have been reported killed this year in Iraq, making it the second highest toll yet.

The deadliest year was 2004, when 849 U.S. military members were killed.

But many Iraqis say that violence elsewhere continues unreported – and that where there is calm, it is hardly for reassuring reasons.

“Sectarian killings are less because all the Sunnis have been evicted from mixed areas in Baghdad,” Salman Hameed, a teacher who was evicted from the al-Hurriya area west of Baghdad eight months ago told IPS. “All my relatives and Sunni neighbours who survived the killing campaign led by the militias under the eyes of American and Iraqi forces have fled either to Syria or to other Sunni cities.”

On Nov. 5 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared victory during a rare walkabout in Baghdad as night fell. “We have achieved victory against terrorist groups and militias,” Maliki told reporters. “Things will not return to the way they were.”

Many Iraqis feel that the reason for the relative calm is that many people have either fled, or been killed.

“There is no one left for them to kill,” 55-year-old retired teacher Nathum Taha told IPS in Baghdad. “The Americans continue to use Arab Shia Iraqi militias to kill Sunnis, but most people have left by now.”

Others blamed the media for lack of adequate reportage.

“Attacks against U.S. forces are not much less than they were last month, but media coverage has almost disappeared,” Muhammad Younis from Mosul, in Baghdad on a business trip, told IPS. “The resistance is moving fast and changing locations in order to avoid intelligence provided by collaborators. Most Iraqis hate the Americans more than ever after the death and destruction caused by their occupation.”

There was a reported five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006. Over 30 tonnes of these were cluster weapons, which take a particularly heavy toll on civilians.

“American air raids are increasing in a way that shows a total failure on the ground,” a retired general of the dissolved Iraqi army told IPS. “A whole family was killed near Madayin, southeast Baghdad on Saturday (Nov. 3) just after the tragic bombing of houses south of Tikrit (about 100 km north of Baghdad) where more than 10 civilians were killed.”

On Nov. 4, Iraqi army personnel backed by U.S. soldiers detained 12 people during a raid on the Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhamiyah district of northern Baghad.

“Those American and government forces could not face the resistance fighters, so they arrest innocent people,” Aziz Thafir, a lawyer who witnessed the arrests, told IPS. “They started their raid with nasty sectarian words against Sunnis, and then arrested every one who was around in the mosque.”

Sectarian violence, which many Iraqis believe to be backed by the U.S., continues at many places where there are still mixed communities left.

In Duluiya, 150 km north of Baghdad, a U.S. army unit raided a house last week and killed a young man inside. Witnesses who arrived in Baghdad from the Sunni town complained that the media is not covering either the resistance activity there or the regular “crimes” committed by U.S. and Iraqi government forces against innocent civilians.

“They are more vicious than they were before,” 44-year-old Abu Ahmed told IPS in the capital. “This is a religious war against Sunnis, who would not accept the occupation and division of the country.”

Ali al-Fadhily is IPS correspondent in Baghdad;  he works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.

Global Research Articles by Ali al-Fadhily
The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7297

Iraq: Government Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad By Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

By Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily
ICH
09/05/07 “IPS News”

Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows.

The death toll is high – in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue in September. The health ministry announced last month that it will build two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day.

Continue reading

Between the Two Rivers, Lack of Water Kills by Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily

Global Research, August 17, 2007

Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD, Aug 17 (IPS) – The collapse of Iraq’s infrastructure has created a worsening water crisis that is killing untold numbers of Iraqis.

Iraq, with its famous Tigris and Euphrates rivers that run the length of the country, is now unable to provide drinking water to most of its people.

“The two rivers are still there, great as they always were, and flowing all through the year,” chief engineer Ahmad Salman of the Baghdad Water Authority told IPS. “Yet Iraqis are thirsty, and we are ashamed of being engineers in the service. We have simply failed to provide our people with half of the drinking water they need.”

Much of the country is suffering severe lack of water, and the small quantities supplied are not good for human use.

“I analysed the water supplied by the water authority, and the result was shocking,” Dr Ibrahim Ali, a laboratory owner in Baghdad told IPS. “It is definitely not good for human consumption, and every time we analyse it we find something new that might, in time, cause death.”

The doctor added, “Various kinds of bacterial pollution and germs we are finding can be as dangerous as biological weapons.”

Iraqi hospitals are full of people with illnesses due to the unsafe water. Doctors at several hospitals confirmed to IPS that water is one of the worst causes of diseases, especially among children, and that some of children had died of water-borne diseases compounded by a severe lack of medicines.

These problems are exacerbated during the summer when both the quantity and quality of water are at their lowest.

“One of the reasons for this lack of water is lack of electric power and fuel for generators,” a member of a local municipal council in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “We have got tired of raising our needs for the water stations because our ministers and their leaders are busy fighting over chairs so that they make as much money as possible before they are thrown away.”

U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker acknowledged to reporters Jul. 19 that Baghdad residents were receiving on average only one hour of electricity a day. Before the U.S.-led invasion, Baghdad residents received 16-24 hours of electricity daily. Without electricity, water cannot be pumped to homes.

A report released Jul. 30 by the international agency Oxfam and NCCI, a network of aid organisations working in Iraq, said that eight million Iraqis, nearly one in three, were in dire need of emergency aid.

The report, ‘Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq’ said that 70 percent of Iraqis are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent in 2003, the year the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched. About 80 percent of Iraqis lack effective sanitation, the report said.

According to the Oxfam report, “child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 percent before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent now.” Lack of potable water is at the root of most such conditions.

“It is corruption more than anything else,” an engineer at the Baghdad Water Authority, who did not wish to be named, told IPS. “The authority is full of corruption from bottom to top, and there is no way to improve the situation unless the political situation is improved by removing these corrupt officials.”

An IPS correspondent was advised not to go to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources in the face of a danger of being kidnapped by security men at the ministry.

“It is another weapon that the Americans are killing us with,” 62-year-old Abu Mahmood, a carpenter from Baghdad told IPS. “No water means diseases that lead to slow, but certain death. They did it to us at the time of sanctions and now it is their chance to do it again without firing bullets and making scandals.”

Few Iraqis see hope under the present government. “The problem is that we do not have a government like any other country,” Baghdad resident Nabhan Mukhlis told IPS. “We should just stop complaining and surrender to the death penalty that was issued the day Americans decided to invade our country.”

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

Ali al-Fadhily is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Ali al-Fadhily

 


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Iran Ties Weaken Government Further By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

By Ali al-Fadhily*
Dahr Jamail: Hard News
Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD, Aug 13 (IPS)

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasing ties with Iran have triggered a splintering of his government.

Several groups, both Sunni and Shia, have followed the Sunni al-Tawafuq bloc (Iraqi Accord Front) in quitting the U.S.-backed government. But Maliki refuses to make the concessions necessary to bring his “unity” government back together.

Spokesman Iyad Jamaliddin said on behalf of the Iraqi National List led by former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi that the ministers of his group would now boycott government meetings. The party claims both Shia and Sunni following.

“We will inform the President, his deputies and the Prime Minister of the essential happenings and needs (of Iraqis) when necessary,” Jamaliddin told IPS in Baghdad.

This means that the entire Sunni bloc has refused to deal with Maliki. The al-Tawafuq bloc has 44 seats in the 275-seat National Assembly, and Allawi’s group 25. Their decision cannot unsettle the ruling Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance that has 128 seats and rules with the support of some small groups, but it would further deny the government legitimacy in the face of widespread perceptions that the government follows sectarian policies in support of Shias.

Maliki is under growing pressure over policies seen to be in line with what the government of Shia-dominated Iran wants. Following Maliki’s visit to Tehran last week, U.S. President George Bush sternly warned him against coming too close to Iran.

Bush said that after the visit, “if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart to heart with my friend, the Prime Minister, because I don’t believe they are constructive.”

Bush added, “My message to him is, when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay.”

On his visit Aug. 8, Maliki thanked Iran for its “positive and constructive” work in “providing security and fighting terrorism in Iraq.” Iran in turn offered Maliki its full support for restoring security, but told him that a pullout of U.S. forces was the only way to end the ongoing violence.

But Maliki’s government has continued to lose support within Iraq. Now Kurdish members of Maliki’s government are also condemning his ailing leadership. Mahmood Othman, a Kurdish member of the Assembly, has said that the situation is “too bad to be left as it is” and that something must change.

“I do not represent the whole Kurdish bloc, but as an MP who represents himself and those who voted for him, I say this government is suffering a great deal of problems with everyone, including Kurds,” Othman told IPS in Baghdad. “It failed to find solutions to many Kurdish affairs like article 140 of the constitution concerning Kirkuk, the oil law and many other things.”

Maliki’s visited Iran on the date on which former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein declared victory in his war with Iran.

“If the visit were meant to be on that date intentionally, then it would be a terrible mistake by Maliki,” Nadim al-Jaburi, general secretary of the Shia al-Fadhila Party that was part of the ruling coalition until its withdrawal from the government in March told IPS. “I am sure Iranians would not have visited Iraq on that date. If it was coincidence, then it only shows how inconsiderate Maliki is about our country.”

Others too had misgivings about Maliki’s visit to Tehran. “Maliki is Iranian and he went there to show his solidarity with his own people,” Majid Hamid, a lawyer from Baghdad told IPS. “He has no self-respect and no consideration for the history of his country that was once at war with Iran.”

Maliki is secretary-general of the Dawa Party, and spent time in exile in Iran after leading insurgent groups against Saddam Hussein.

“It is a last attempt to get support from his masters in Iran,” Abdul-Hussien Ali, a teacher from the predominantly Shia district of Kadhimiya in northern Baghdad told IPS. “Iran killed nearly a million Iraqis in that war, and now our so-called Prime Minister is supporting them on the very day they officially lost the war.”

Many Iraqis ask why Bush continues to support the failing Prime Minister. “Why is that Bush so fond of this finished government,” said Yassin Jassim, a shopkeeper in Baghdad. “The government is finished by failing to provide us with security and all other daily essential needs. This means that Bush has also failed.”

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

A Nail in Maliki Government’s Coffin? By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

By Ali al-Fadhily*
Inter Press Service
August 03, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug 3 (IPS) – The recent resignations of Iraq’s Army Chief of Staff and several of his council military leaders underscore a continuing decomposition of Iraq’s U.S.-backed government.

Everybody in Iraq — politicians, political analysts, poets, scientists, porters – seems to agree that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a total failure.

Security, basic services, and all measurable levels of Iraq’s infrastructure are worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, the U.S., Britain and Iran all continue to support this government.

“Politicians in this country are the best at serving their personal interests, and that is what has kept al-Maliki in power,” Amjad Hussein, an Iraqi journalist in Baghdad told IPS. “Wherever I go in Iraq, people complain of the very bad living conditions caused by the wrong policies of this government. Even those who voted for the (Shia) Iraqi coalition bite their fingers in regret for the support they gave to this group of people who have led the country into darkness.”

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Football Succeeds Where Politics Fails By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

By Ali al-Fadhily*
Inter Press Service
July 29, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jul 27 (IPS) – An Iraqi football victory seems to have united Iraqis across the country where politicians only divide it.The Iraqi football team defeated South Korea 4-3 in Malaysia Wednesday to gain entrance into the finals of the Asian Cup. That set off a wave of celebrations across the capital and most of the country.

Tens of thousands of overjoyed Iraqis swarmed the streets of Baghdad, waving Iraqi flags and firing into the air to celebrate. Not even two car bombs that killed more than 50 people dampened all of the enthusiasm.

The football team is one of the last remaining symbols of national unity, because it includes mixed sects and ethnicities — a rarity under an occupation that has fractured the country along ethnic lines and along sects within Islam.

For a brief time it appeared that the people of Iraq suddenly had suddenly forgotten those differences.

“This is a punch that came right in the nose of anyone who says we are divided,” Mahmood Farhan of the Iraqi Journalists League in Baghdad told IPS. “Look how we swept off the dirt of occupation politics and, hand in hand, won each other’s love.”

Iraqi security forces were taken off guard by the spontaneous burst of celebrations, and for a brief time the capital appeared the old, crowded, noisy Baghdad.

“Our hearts beat together, and let the occupiers go to hell,” shouted a young man on a bicycle on the streets of the Sadr City area of the capital. Many people gathered around the IPS correspondent when they figured their celebrations were being reported to the outside world.

A man who referred to himself as Hussein who was visiting Baghdad from Basra, told IPS amidst the celebrating crowd in Sadr City: “Iraq only, no Shias, no Sunnis and no Kurds. Down with divisions. Down with sectarian attitudes.”



Continued…

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Partition Fears Begin to Rise By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*

BAGHDAD, Jul 16 (IPS)

Many Iraqis are now beginning to see the rising sectarian violence as part of a larger plan to partition the country.

“Americans want to alter the shape of our cities, dividing Iraqis into ethnic and sectarian groups living separately from each other,” Khali Sadiq, a researcher in statistics at Baghdad University told IPS.

“They are not doing this directly, but they have obviously given room to militias and Iraqi forces to do the job,” he said. “We are more than halfway towards a sectarian Iraq.”

A recent report has raised further suspicions that there is a U.S.-backed plan to partition the capital city, and possibly the country along sectarian and ethnic lines.

According to the Initial Benchmark Assessment Report issued by the White House Jul. 12, “the government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress towards enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions.”

The report also states that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government formulates “target lists” of Sunni Arabs. These lists are compiled by the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, which reports directly to U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The report says fabricated charges are brught to purge Sunnis from the Iraqi security forces.

Samara city, 100 km north of Baghdad, seems to be one of the current targets of this demographic change. The bombing of the shrine of al-Askari in February 2006 ignited a sectarian wave of violence that swept Iraq. Shia clerics in Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces who are supportive of the occupation began to speak of a need to change the city from predominantly Sunni to predominantly Shia.

Shula and Hurriya in western Baghdad, and most areas on the eastern bank of Tigris River are now purely Shia after years of killings by death squads. It has been known for over a year now that Shia death squads have been operating out of the U.S.-backed Ministry of Interior, often in the guise of the Facilities Protection Service (FPS).

The FPS was created under extraordinary circumstances. The U.S. occupation authorities and the Iraqi leaders working with them set up several new army and police forces under the supervision of the Multi National Forces (MNF). It was decided that each ministry could establish its own protection force away from the control of the ministries of interior and defence.

The FPS was established Apr. 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad, under Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) order 27.

This document states: “The FPS may also consist of employees of private security firms who are engaged to perform services for the ministries or governorates through contracts, provided such private security firms and employees are licensed and authorised by the Ministry of Interior.”

Global Security.Org, a U.S.-based security research group, says: “The Facilities Protection Service works for all ministries and governmental agencies, but its standards are set and enforced by the Ministry of the Interior. It can also be privately hired. The FPS is tasked with the fixed site protection of ministerial, governmental, or private buildings, facilities and personnel.”

But evidence has emerged that this and other police forces have been taken over by Shia militia.

Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad, has said: “To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure we’re ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence.”

Shaw said about 70 percent of the Iraqi police force had been infiltrated, and that police officers are too afraid to patrol many areas of the capital.

Many Iraqis today believe this is part of an intentional plan to divide Iraq along sectarian lines.

“They (death squads) evicted many of our good Sunni neighbours and killed many others,” Abu Riyad of the predominantly Shia Shula area told IPS. “We protected them for a while, but then we could not face the militias with all the support they had from the Iraqi government and the Americans. It is a terrible shame that we have to live with, but what can we do?”

On the other hand, many Sunni Iraqis seemed unwilling to evict their Shia countrymen — for a while. But people in one mixed area of Baghdad described strange developments.

“It is true that our neighbours did not evict us, but then the Americans swept the area and local fighters had to disappear from the streets,” Hussein Allawi, a Shia who lived in a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood told IPS. “A group of masked strangers then entered the town right under American soldiers’ eyes. Only then did we realise that we must leave, and that our good neighbours could not help us any more.”

Many such stories are told around Baghdad.

“We had to leave our house in Isskan in the western part of Baghdad,” Dr. Fadhil Mahmood, a Sunni, told IPS. “A Shia friend of mine telephoned me to leave the house instantly because he heard some people were heading there to kill me and evict my family.”

Mahmood said that his neighbours later told him that death squads arrived half an hour after he left his home.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

‘Arrowhead’ Becomes Fountainhead of Anger By Ali al-Fadhily

Dandelion Salad
Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*

BAQUBA, Jul 10, 2007 (IPS)

Ongoing U.S. military operations in Diyala province have brought normal life to an end, and fuelled support for the national resistance.

Baquba, 50km northeast of Baghdad, and capital city of the volatile Diyala province, has born the brunt of violence during the U.S. military Operation ‘Arrowhead Ripper’.

Conflicting reports are on offer on the number of houses destroyed and numbers of civilians killed, but everyone agrees that the destruction is vast and the casualties numerous.

The operation was launched Jun. 18 “to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people,” according to Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding officer of the 25th Infantry Division.

But most Iraqis IPS interviewed in the area say the operation seeks more to break the national Iraqi resistance and those who support it. Adding credibility to this belief is the fact that the U.S. operational commander of troops involved in the operation told reporters Jun. 22 that 80 percent of the top al-Qaeda leaders in Baquba fled before the offensive began.

“Americans want Sunni people to leave Diyala or else they face death,” Salman Shakir from the Gatoon district in Baquba told IPS outside the U.S. military cordon around the besieged city. “They warned al-Qaeda days or maybe weeks before they attacked the province and so only us, the citizens, stayed to face the massacre.”

Shakir said many of his relatives and neighbours were killed by the military while attempting to leave the area. “I cannot tell you how many people were killed, but bodies of civilians were left in the streets.”

“We all know now that the U.S. military is using the name of al-Qaeda to cover attacks against our national resistance fighters and civilians who wish immediate or scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” Hilmi Saed, an Iraqi journalist from Baghdad told IPS on the outskirts of Baquba.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group in the Iraqi cabinet, issued a statement Jul. 1 alleging that more than 350 people had been killed in the U.S. military operation in Baquba.

The group called the operation “collective punishment” and said “neighbourhoods in western Baquba have witnessed, since last week, fierce attacks by occupation forces within Operation Arrowhead Ripper.”

The statement added, “The forces shelled these neighbourhoods with helicopters, destroying more than 150 houses and killing more than 350 citizens. Their bodies are still under the wreckage. And they have arrested scores of citizens.”

The U.S. military does not keep count of the number of civilian casualties caused by their operations.

Animosity towards the United States appears to be rising throughout the area as a result of the military action.

“Americans are pushing us to the corner of extremity by these massive crimes,” Abbas al-Zaydi, a teacher from Baquba told IPS. “They simply want us to sell cheap our religion, history, tradition and faith or else they would call us terrorists.”

Al-Zaydi added, “My son was not a fighter, but he was killed by a militia leader who is at the same time an Iraqi army division commander. Our great fault is only that we are Sunnis, and Americans do not like that.”

“It is clear now that any Iraqi who refuses to serve the American plan is considered an enemy of the United States,” a community leader in the city who did not want to give his name told IPS.

He said some people are angrier with other leaders supporting the U.S. forces. “The whole world is responsible for these murders, and a day will come that we say to the world, ‘you supported Americans who killed us’.”

A man wearing a mask, who appeared to be a resistance fighter, spoke with IPS just outside Baquba on condition of anonymity.

“Hundreds were killed and thousands evicted from the city while the so-called al-Qaeda fighters survived,” he said. “Americans must be told that we will never stop killing their sons who came to kill us unless they leave our country in peace.”

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Have the Tigris and Euphrates Run Dry? By Ali al-Fadhily

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*
July 09, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jul 9 (IPS) – Two of the largest rivers of the region run through Iraq, so why are Iraqis desperate for lack of water?

The vast majority of Iraqis live by the Euphrates river, and the Tigris with its many tributaries. The two rivers join near Basra city in the south to form the Shat al-Arab river basin. Iraq is also gifted with high quality ground water resources; about a fifth of the territory is farmland.

“The water we have in Iraq is more than enough for our living needs,” chief engineer Adil Mahmood of the Irrigation Authority in Baghdad told IPS. “In fact we can export water to neighbouring countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan — who manage shortages in water resources with good planning.”

But now Iraqi farmers struggle to get water to their crops. There is severe lack of electricity to run pumps, and fuel to run generators.

“The water is there and the rivers have not dried up, but the problem lies in how to get it to our dying plantations,” Jabbar Ahmed, a farmer from Latifiya south of Baghdad told IPS. “It is a shame that we, our animals and our plants are thirsty in a country that has the two great rivers.”

Iraq now imports most agricultural products because of lack of irrigation.

“I used to sell fifty tonnes of tomatoes every year, but now I go to the market to buy my daily need,” Numan Majid from the Abu Ghraib area just west of Baghdad told IPS. “I tried hard to cope with the situation, but in vain. One cannot grow crops in Iraq any more with this water shortage.”

Some Iraqis talk of the times when this region taught the world how to use water.

“Sumerians were more advanced than we are now,” Mahmood Shakir, a historian from Baghdad University told IPS. “Over seven thousand years ago, the Sumerians dug channels to water their wheat farms and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, brought water to his great Suspended Gardens in a way that made them one of the seven wonders.”

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, Iraq has a total area of 438,320 square kilometres and 924 km of inland waters. It is topographically shaped like a basin between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Ancient Mesopotamia where Iraq now stands means literally the land between two rivers.

Now it is another story around those two rivers. “This gift from God is not used properly by the authorities because of the UN sanctions and then the chaos that followed U.S. occupation of the country,” said Jabbar Ahmed.

The U.S. company Bechtel, whose board members have close ties to the Bush administration, was to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq’s water and electrical infrastructure. But it left the country without carrying out most such tasks.

The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. About 70 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access, according to the World Health Organisation. Unemployment stands at more than 60 percent.

Many Iraqi professionals blame the occupation, and companies that it brought in, such as Bechtel.

Amidst all this, the government is funding study of agricultural practices.

“The government is spending huge amounts of money on research into agriculture and irrigation,” Dr. Muath Sadiq, a researcher in agricultural reform in Baghdad told IPS. “I think that is simply a way to steal more money from the government budget.”

The research is not much good, he said, because the real problem “is clearly the shortage in electricity and fuel. To be more precise, the reason is the occupation and the corrupt governments it brought to the country.”

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Curfew-Bound Fallujah On The Boil Again By Ali al-Fadhily

By Ali al-Fadhily*
Inter Press Service
June 27, 2007

FALLUJAH, Jun 27 (IPS)

Strict curfew and tight security measures have brought difficult living conditions and heightened tempers to residents of this besieged city.

The siege in this city located 60km west of Baghdad has entered its second month. There is little sign of any international attention to the plight of the city. Fallujah, which is largely sympathetic to the Iraqi resistance, was assaulted twice by the U.S. military in 2004.

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